Central Saanich has postponed its annual Halloween fireworks and bonfire in Centennial Park – and suspended fireworks and open burning until further notice because of the extreme fire risk posed by dry weather conditions.
The ban on opening burning extends a suspension first announced on Oct. 13 — two days before the typical opening of the burning season. The department had also announced on that same date that it could also suspend fireworks and bonfires, a move now no longer theoretical.
Due to the extreme fire risk posed by dry weather conditions, Central Saanich is extending the suspension of fireworks & open burning, including campfires, until further notice. The Halloween celebration at Centennial Park will be rescheduled.
— Central Saanich Fire (@CSaanichFire) October 18, 2022
Chief Kenn Mount of the Central Saanich Fire Department said in an interview Wednesday morning the fire risk remains too high for open flames, even as forecasts show some precipitation. “But it’s coming at the 11th hour and it definitely would not be enough,” he said. “In order to lift it, (the ban) would be looking for a reduction in the risk factor, which would likely begin with the precipitation coming in. We will be looking at the indices that are coming from the province as well, that can move us from extreme down to high down to moderate (in terms of fire risk).”
British Columbia Wildfire Service currently rates the fire risk danger for Central Saanich as extreme. It means that “(new) fires will start easily, spread rapidly, and challenge fire suppression efforts” and that “(general) forest activities may be restricted, including open burning, industrial activities and campfires.”
Coastal Fire Centre, which includes Central Saanich, banned category two and three open fires on July 15. Central Saanich’s opening burning bylaw only permits category three open fires — fires designed to burn large amounts of vegetation — between Oct. 15 and May 15, subject to permitting.
Mount said a number of factors come into play, including the municipality’s own open burning bylaw. “What we have been doing is following and monitoring closely the situation,” he said. “We look for consistency with the BC Wildfire Service. We look at the activity that is happening in the province. We also take in concerns as air quality and also resources, how active firefighters are in the region, and our own resources as well.”
Mount acknowledged the community’s disappointment about the postponement of the fireworks organized by fire department volunteers but also pointed to strong public support in favour of suspending opening burning. He added that the event will go ahead at the soonest-possible, reasonably-available date consistent with what the province and neighbouring communities are doing. “We want things in our rural community to make sense,” he said.
Central Saanich’s announcement that it is postponing its annual Halloween fireworks and bonfire in Centennial Park comes with an appeal to act responsibly and spread the message about the reasoning behind the move. It also comes with the notice that the fireworks show will happen in the future as the Forrest Owens Memorial Fireworks in recognizing the former deputy chief Forrest Owens, who died earlier this year. He had spearheaded the event in the past.
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